Cocaine-associated memories are persistent, but, on retrieval, become temporarily destabilized and vulnerable to disruptions, followed by reconsolidation. To explore the synaptic underpinnings for these memory dynamics, we studied AMPA receptor (AMPAR)-silent excitatory synapses, which are generated in the nucleus accumbens by cocaine self-administration, and subsequently mature after prolonged withdrawal by recruiting AMPARs, echoing acquisition and consolidation of cocaine memories. We show that, on memory retrieval after prolonged withdrawal, the matured silent synapses become AMPAR-silent again, followed by re-maturation ~6 h later, defining the onset and termination of a destabilization window of cocaine memories. These synaptic dynamics are timed by Rac1, with decreased and increased Rac1 activities opening and closing, respectively, the silent synapse-mediated destabilization window. Preventing silent synapse re-maturation within the destabilization window decreases cue-induced cocaine seeking. Thus, cocaine-generated silent synapses constitute a discrete synaptic ensemble dictating the dynamics of cocaine-associated memories and can be targeted for memory disruption.
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